Thoughts on the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time


False Accusation and Malicious Speech

If you remove from your midst
Oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech…
Then light will shine for you in darkness,
And the gloom will become for you like midday.

Lies and words intended to damage.  It is disappointing to know that the ancient Judeans, God’s chosen people, seem to be no better than twenty-first century Americans.   One famous case of false accusation was King Ahab’s successful attempt to convict Naboth of blasphemy on the basis of suborned testimony, getting Naboth out of the way so that the King could appropriate Naboth’s vineyard (I Kings 21:10–14). There was a notable attempt to get the troublesome prophet Jeremiah out of the way through a whispering campaign (20:10):  “I hear many whispering.  Terror on every side,  Denounce him!  Let us denounce him (20:10)!  But taken all-in-all we may assume that the lies, calumnies, and false accusations current in Isaiah’s day represented disagreements that took place across a range of human emotions and interests such as greed and dislike of truth telling prophets. 

The same, alas, is not true in the twenty-first century where politics boils down to sex, and ultimately to the right of every person to enjoy sex ad libitum, attempting  to prevent  conception through mechanical or chemical means, but if those efforts are ineffective willing  to destroy the child conceived at will.  The proposition is one that is hard to discuss calmly, because at bottom there are those who believe that children belong to the mother to do with as the mother chooses, while others believe that at the moment of conception a person is present in the womb, a life that belongs to God, not to the state or to any private person.   The argument is bound to be rancorous because no common first principle is shared, so that one side will admit to no claim to personhood on the part of the child in the womb, so that its removal is simply good riddance of unwanted tissue, while the other will insist that the unborn child is a discrete, God-willed and God-protected person from the moment of conception.  The controversy is difficult to mediate because one side will deny that there is any case against abortion and the other will insist that such a case exists and is universally compelling.   So given their respective presuppositions, the argument can easily degenerate into a shouting match in which the cry of child-murderer is met by the cry mother-murderer. Do you want women to die in childbirth?   But on the most fundamental level the claim that children belong to God and the claim that they are disposable property will not be moved.  

          For those who believe the child is nothing there is no advice in these paragraphs, but for the pro-life the way must be the way of witness, not of strident speech.   The ways of witness are threefold.   Pay attention to Humanae Vitae, now under attack; have many babies while you can, thereby fulfilling God’s first commandment.  There is nothing that refutes, and perhaps subtly enrages, the other side more that the five-or-more child family.  Then support the institutions that lift up the glorious existence of the child:   Natural family planning, pro-life counseling services, adoption agencies, and the thousands who march, standing in cold and rain as witness to life and against the deaths of little children, always charitable, never vituperative.

          As for argument?   Perhaps.   But evidence is that once a person crosses the line that marks loyalty to un-born life, entering the child-is-nothing camp, once one has participated in or encouraged what has rightly been called the sacrament of secularism, turning back is difficult, for abortion is the bedrock of post-modern culture. It is the guarantee that there will be no price to be paid for sexual gratification, and makes members of the abortion culture Lords of This World, more powerful than God Himself.           

          The evil that the destruction of little children represents did not come upon the world unawares.  The evolution of prurience to the status of a virtue has been a work of time, begun by the revolutionaries of the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the philosophes of the French revolution, their program made systematic by Sigmund Freud, who elevated sexuality to be the defining characteristic of human personality, proposing that the realm of natural desire rightly occupies the dominant place in human personality, pushing intellect, will and conscience into the background. So successful was Freud that now whole segments of the population will identify themselves by preferences that would not have been mentioned a lifetime ago. Perhaps it is true to say that desire is the default position of humankind; when there is no other adventure, no interest in God, no interest in the moral adventure that forms humanity at its best, desire in its downward trajectory into lust will provide undying interest.  The image-makers know that there is one sure route into human imagination, the reiterated images of smiling carnality that feed the itch of concupiscence.   

          All these things are born in the human will as qualified by a complicit and corrupt intellect.  The elimination of their place at center stage of human experience must begin in the redeemed will for which purity of heart, no matter how ineffectively achieved, is greater than concupiscent satisfaction.   For the decay of our civilization, while numerous causes may be cited, is really a demonic project of which the destruction of little children is the masterpiece.   What is always true is particularly true now. The enemy is not finally Planned Parenthood, although it provides the mask, but Satan, enraged, cast out of heaven, dedicated to the destruction of souls, to death.  “We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

          Saint Paul then reminds that the counter to all this is a Christian wearing the armor of God.   The list is familiar, the breastplate of righteousness, the Gospel of peace, and above all the shield of faith.   In contest with this present darkness the greatest weapon is prayer and penance, with repentance that recognizes the various ways the best of us may have consented in the demonic program that may begin with small things, with consent to immodesty, with complicity in small impurities, small things that end with the destruction of small persons on the altar of gratification.   

          Prayer, gentle witness, sacrifice, the pursuit of purity, repentance will do more than hard language.             

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